Swiss Estonian Association

Swiss Estonian Association (SES) was founded after World War II by Estonians who had fled the Soviet occupation of their country. On 23 February 1947, 32 Estonians living in Switzerland gathered in Kastanienbaum (Lucerne canton) to commemorate the twenty-ninth anniversary of the founding of the Estonian Republic.

In the years that followed, local Estonians met twice a year – usually in Luzern or Zurich - to celebrate Independence Day and St. John’s Eve, a traditional midsummer event. The Association was officially formed on 28 June 1953 at a meeting in Lucerne that was attended by 21 people. (At the time there were thought to be about 70 Estonians living in Switzerland.)

The Association’s activities gradually broadened to include Christmas celebrations, cultural activities and events held jointly with local Latvian and Lithuanian groups. The commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of Estonian independence in 1978 in Zurich gleaned local press coverage. In the 1980s, with increasing political liberalization in the three Soviet-occupied Baltic countries, contacts between Estonians in exile and those living in Estonia increased and the Association’s activities proliferated. Members were overjoyed when Estonia proclaimed its renewed independence on 20 August 1991.

Today the Association is developing new types of activities, from wine tastings to choral singing, and attracting new members, including long-time Swiss residents, recent arrivals from Estonia and others. Non-Estonians with an interest in Estonia, its people and traditions are welcome to join the Association or simply participate in its activities.

Presidents of the Swiss Estonian Association:

Vladimir Kukk (1953–1973)
Õie Fleig-Tamm (1973–1975)
Matti Klaar (1975–1979)
Asta Arn (1988–1991)
Regina Knoch (1991 - )
Kaire Rebane (–1997)
Terje Busenhart (1997–2013)
Mirjam Loertscher (2013-2019)
Kristi Jõeleht-Nastaj (current president since 2019)

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